Why I read this book: This book was on a recommended list of reading for aspiring authors. My review below will cover the nuts and bolts, but it was very much worth the read.
What I learned from this book: Lots. This book is full of exceptional advice about structuring your novels, writing scenes, detailing characters. Grab any one of the 50 tools, and you’ll probably find gold.
What I won’t do because of this book: There are a lot of tips in here that are “try to avoid.” I guess the biggest one is trying to edit too early. Just let the writing take me where I need to go and come back to editing later.
Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Writing Tools is an instructional book focusing on the craft of writing. It covers 50 tips (”tools”) across 4 categories that authors should keep in mind as they write anything from novels to short stories to newspaper articles. The categories include Grammatical reminders (”Nuts and Bolts”), stylist elements (”Special Effects”), planning and structure (”Blueprints”), and general writing life strategies (”Useful Habits”). Each chapter has a clear title that tells us what he’s going to be focusing on, and then goes on to illustrate numerous examples from popular best-sellers, historical works, niche stories, and personal writings. He makes the attempt in each tool to target both fiction and non-fiction so that all authors will be able to take something from it. At the end of each chapter is a workshop with 4 hand’s-on exercises that the author can take home and practice and reinforce what has been learned.
Through all of this, Clark never comes across as preachy or slave to the styles that he is outlining… He even goes so far as to provide counter examples in many of the tools illustrating how an author broke the recommendation… But he reminds that doing so should be a stylistic choice and not something the author wandered into by mistake. Some example tools:
2) Order words for Emphasis
8) Establish a pattern, then give it a twist
10) Cut big, then small
14) Get the name of the dog
28) Put odd and interesting things next to each other
32) Place gold coins along the path
44) Save string
This book is a MUST-HAVE for those who want to write. I’ve read many books on the craft of writing and most touch on different slices of this book. Writing Tools brings all the tips and tricks together into a 50 short chapters that readers can digest in chunks, or apply as a checklist as they work on their own stories. It will definitely remain in the “Easy-to-Access” stack of books I use while I write.